There may be nothing that compares to the excitement of preparing for the arrival of your baby. In addition to the basic nursery and layette purchases, many parents choose a playpen, not just as a play area, but also as a convenient place for naps. When shopping for a playpen, you will find a variety of options in features, style and décor. The most important aspect to consider, however, is the safety of your baby.
When purchasing a playpen, either new or used, look for the manufacturer, the date of manufacture and the model number on the label. You can then check with the manufacturer or the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) concerning safety features and any recalls. Some items also have a tag from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) which verifies that the product meets the safety standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ATSM) and CPSC.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for assembly and keep your instruction booklet available for grandparents or friends who come to visit or babysit.
Most playpens have top rails that lock in place automatically and have mesh sides. For your baby’s safety, the mesh should be less than 1/4-inch in size, free of tears and securely attached. Check for padded rails and look for tears in the padding. Curious babies can get their fingers into tears and remove bits of padding. As we know, whatever gets into their hands, goes into their mouths. Although your playpen will have hinges and bolts, be sure they are not exposed and that there is no protruding hardware.
In the case of playpens with wood slats, the slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart to prevent your baby from becoming caught between the slats, according to Healthy Children.
Since playpens are frequently used for sleeping, the mattress is a consideration. For optimal safety, use the mattress that is provided by the manufacturer. It should be a one-inch thick, firm mattress that fits snugly. Although you may be tempted to provide your baby with a pillow and beautiful quilt or comforter, the CPSC recommends that no soft bedding be added to the playpen. The bedding can get tangled around your infant, causing suffocation.
Some playpens come with a bassinet or changing table attachment. A bassinet provides a convenient place for your infant to nap while keeping him close by. If you choose to use this feature, always remove it from the rails when you place your baby in the playpen. Refrain from using the bassinet when your baby reaches 15 pounds -- the manufacturer's recommended weight limit -- or once your baby can sit up, pull up or roll over.
If your playpen includes a changing table, remove this feature when the baby is in the playpen and never use it for sleeping. Remove the changing table attachment once the baby reaches the manufacturer's weight limit, usually between 15 and 25 pounds.
If there are mobiles or toy bars attached, remove them once your baby is able to push up onto his hands and knees.
Wheels make it easy to move the playpen to different locations; however, always lock them in place.